A Night With Mama Aya
A big part of starting this blog is due to Ayahuasca. I recently had some trips that inspired and encouraged me to write about and share more of my experiences. In that spirit, I think it’s fitting that one of the first things I write should be about my first encounter with the plant medicine. It’s one of my favorite stories to tell and it really changed my life and the way I see the world.
So here is the story of the first time I did Ayahuasca…
I sat poised on a straw mat at the feet of a young shaman. He was blowing smoke on me from a hand-rolled mapacho cigaret and giving me a blessing in his native Amazonian tongue. I looked down at my hands clutching the cup of brown liquid. It smelled like a mixture of soy sauce and burnt coffee soaking in a dirty ashtray. The odor wafted up and punched through my nostrils as it swirled around me. This was my first time in the Amazon, and I wondered if I had made the right decision to come here. The closest village was a 3-hour boat ride away. I’d traveled so far to have an encounter with this magic tradition, I just hoped it was worth it.
I glanced over my shoulder at my friend Kilé, the only other person in the small jungle hut with me besides the shaman. The look of anxiety and nervousness was plastered on his face like a fresh graffiti tag on a freeway overpass. I was drinking first. When the shaman, Christian, finished his blessing he gave me a slight nod, the gesture that I was ready to drink. I took a deep breath followed by a deep exhale as I raised the glass to eye level and gave a sort of salute to an invisible drinking buddy, then I quickly drew the cup to my lips as I threw my head back and guzzled the drink.
The taste was absolutely terrible! The pungent flavor splashed on my tongue as it slapped and assaulted my taste buds like a sweaty sumo wrestler in a belly flop contest. It took all my willpower not to gag and spit it back up. I choked the concoction down in two big gulps, then looked around panting with my tongue out like a tired dog. I screwed my face up with my eyes shut tight, as if I could blink away the foul taste, then I shook my head violently, the motion an attempt to cement the potion into my stomach. When I was sure it would stay down I chuckled a bit, feeling I had gained some type of victory by keeping the drink inside. There was no turning back now. My ayahuasca ceremony had begun…
I rolled back to my mat a few feet away, still reeling from the taste of the putrid substance. Kilé replaced me at the foot of our ceremony master. I draped my blanket over my lap and pulled the bucket I’d be using to vomit into for the next few hours close. I was well aware of the “cleanse” that the plant medicine is known for inducing, the vomiting and defecating that accompany the intense psychedelic trip, but after ingesting the foul brew myself, it was obvious why those would be the common side effects.
I sat and waited to be whisked away on my journey through the spirit world as Kilé received his blessing and downed his dose. After he finished and returned to his spot on the mat next to me, I saw Christian pour himself a small glass and take the shot with the calm and readiness that silently displayed his experience with the substance. When he was done and ready he turned off the light and the three of us sat silently, surrounded by the sounds of the jungle outside, as we waited for the trip to begin.
My first visions started about 20 minutes after drinking before any of the physical effects began. I was sitting cross-legged on the mat with my eyes closed when I felt a sudden female energy present all around me. The tribes of the Amazon have always identified Ayahuasca as a female and often depict her as a powerful jungle anaconda snake. I immediately understood why, as she flooded in, around and through me. The connection was metaphysical, but every bit as real as the ground I was sitting on.
She circled up to my shoulders first and engulfed me, as if in an embrace. The communication was without words but impossible to misunderstand. She whispered in my ear that it was nice to finally meet me and that she’d been waiting for a long timed for our encounter. She then slithered closer still, and began to tell me her secret truths through the visions and feelings she projects as her means of communication.
First, she explained to me that the death of my father would bring about the birth of a daughter in my life and that she would be the reincarnation of my dad. A very heavy revelation to hit me with right off the bat! As I attempted to grapple with this information intellectually, there was a flash in my eyes and I suddenly saw a vision of myself holding a newborn girl. “This is your father.” The voice of my spirit guide narrated as I took in the scene.
At this point, I was faintly aware that Christian had begun shaking a palm leaf and chanting his icaros, the songs that are traditionally sung by the shaman during ceremonies. My physical body had started to become ill as I felt heat and nausea grip me like a vice, my mind spiraling and tumbling through a dimension of lights and colored geometric patterns.
While I fought to maintain my wits in the small humid hut, the serpentine figure floated deeper into my perimeter. She entered into my head and from behind my eyes, a scene started to unfold like a projection from an old reel to reel film. I was seeing from a first-person view a delivery room. I looked down at my legs spread as the head of a baby passed into view. The spirit detailed what I was witnessing, “You are seeing through the eyes of your mother. That baby is you.” I continued watching on as the doctor handed me the baby. I looked over and saw my dad, younger than I remember him, there next to me smiling. Then I looked down at the baby and tried to wrap my head around what I was actually experiencing.
Time sped up and I continued to watch a montage, through my mother’s eyes, as her and my father raised me. I felt all her love and joy of being a new parent and saw all the confusion and insecurity of each new decision that those challenges bring. I went on like that, watching for the first 2 years of my life, up to the point where my little sister was born. Once again I found myself back in the emergency room, ready to pump out kid #2. I zoomed out, above the scene. The next 27 years with my family flashed before my eyes in an instant. I saw and understood on a visceral level how the four of us have all grown up together my mom, dad, sister and I, and how despite all the ups and downs we’ve had, the depths of our bonds make us inseparable in this life, regardless of distance.
Back in the jungle shack in this world, I was now full on sick, going between puking into my bucket, crawling on my belly to a small bathroom in the back to defecate my brains out, and lying curled up on my mat in the fetal position shaking and rocking uncontrollably. The geometric shapes and patterns flooding my vision had become more intense. Christian’s chanting was in full swing as his voice battled against the sounds of the bugs in the sticky night air of the jungle.
As I lay sick on the floor, I became aware of myself as a ball of light floating outside my body. I was surrounded by other luminous orbs as well, all about the size of baseballs. I had the feeling that I somehow knew the others and this was a homecoming. We hovered and bounced in the air, jubilant in our reunion. From the elevated position near the ceiling, I looked down at my physical body curled up in a ball on the ground, and I was filled with a rush of gratitude. I thanked my human form for taking on this torture in order for me to visit this “home” for a brief moment.
Meanwhile, in the depths of my mind, my personal spiritual journey continued. Mother ayahuasca had begun to show me in rapid succession all my past romantic relationships. I relived each one in an instant, one after the other, viewing them all objectively. There was no feeling attached, no memory of the emotional connection I had with my ex’s. Just two people interacting for some time before partying ways. Later, when Christian interpreted our visions, he would explain to me that when we break up with people in the physical world, we still carry these psychic attachments that he described as chords. He revealed that these chords drain our energy and that by revisiting our old relationships in this way, we sever these chords and regain our personal power.
Once the ex-girlfriend parade had finished, the spirit’s intense grip began to loosen a bit. In the hut, I looked over at Kilé. I had forgotten he was there, too wrapped up in my personal Oddisee to recall his presence. He lay silently a few feet away, engaged in his own ordeals. Christian had taken a break from his chanting and got up to blow more of his mystic smoke on our limp frames.
After he was sure we were ok, he sat back in his seat in the front of the room and began the chants once more. The melodic songs accompanied by the rattle of his palm leaf and the rainforest crickets acted quickly to suck me right back into my visions. The feminine spirit took me once again, this time turning me inside out and putting me on her back. I rode her serpentine body like a dragon, through multiple universes, galaxies and dimensions, all beyond words and normal comprehension.
She took me on this journey for what seemed like infinity before returning me back to my normal mind. She then began to spin and weave together all of the people I had ever come into contact with in my life up to that point. I had flashes of my best friends, childhood classmates I hadn’t thought of in years, and old family acquaintances that I could barely remember. Everyone and anyone I had ever met rolled past my mind’s eye in a collage of faces and interactions. I took it all in in a blast and waited for the revelation. Without disappointing, ayahuasca rematerialized and told me, “You’ve always been a good person. You’ve never tried to hurt anyone or cause any harm.” Then, with a light punch in the shoulder, she said, “Keep it up.”
As the trip came to a close I vomited once more, then lay outstretched on my back in a sweaty heap, panting and trying to come to terms with all that I had just experienced. I felt like a small fly that had been crushed with a sledgehammer. There were still mild kaleidoscopic patterns dancing in my vision as the effects tapered off.
Christian left, retreating to his private quarters, and Kilé and I stumbled under the bug nets that hung over our beds. We laid there in silence. I heard the faint sound of a wild jungle panther growling outside as I drifted off to sleep. I knew that tomorrow I would wake up forever changed…